Special FBI Unit Pursuing Black Market Arts Underground Rescues Monet and Yankees Memorabilia

(NationalUSNews.com) — An FBI unit specializing in black market art and memorabilia has recovered more than 20,000 items since 2004, with the value of the items recovered totaling over $900 million. The unit is known as the Art Crime Program, which prevents international criminal organizations like the Italian Mafia or Russian Mob from trafficking stolen or counterfeit works of art.

Some items the Art Crime Program recovered include an original Charles Dickens novel, paintings from renowned artists like Salvador Dali and Claude Monet, and the ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.” The unit also recovered a ring from the 1952 World Series and centuries-old Native American artifacts. According to the FBI, the Art Crime Program has recovered items worth tens of millions of dollars.

While speaking about the Art Crime Program, Ellen Ferrante from the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs claimed the unit focuses on a wide range of crimes relating to black market artworks and artifacts. According to Ferrante, the unit focuses on various crimes, including theft, fraud, and international art trafficking.

A supervisory agent from the Art Crime Program, Kristin Koch, said the unit works on more than just art-related offenses. Koch says the Art Crime Program investigates stolen art, museum theft, and counterfeit art, but it also specializes in artifact trafficking and violations of laws protecting Native Americans.

According to Koch, art crimes usually violate federal law due to the international black market for illicitly obtained artworks. The black market for illegally obtained art is worth billions and involves many countries. Ferrante also spoke about the international black market for artworks and said that the Art Crime Program often encounters international criminal organizations during its investigations.

Koch claims that these international criminal organizations commit most art-related crimes due to the potentially huge profits from black market transactions. Although the Art Crime Program often investigates organized crime, individual criminals are also investigated by the FBI. One such individual is Terry Jon Martin, a 76-year-old who stole Judy Garland’s iconic slippers from the “Wizard of Oz.”

Garland’s slippers initially disappeared in 2005 when Martin stole them from a museum in Garland’s hometown. The Art Crime Program eventually recovered the slippers and charged Martin with stealing a major piece of artwork.

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